The mornings were gorgeous and thankfully we were not on the 8am boat like almost everyone else. Let’s be honest: 15 boats with a minimum of 6 divers, each vying for the same spot will scare off the most seasoned parrot fish. Our group leader, Randy from Abyss Scuba had chosen the 9am boat. Bowing to that wise man we congregated for breakfast every morning at around 7:30ish (island time), which, due to the time difference felt like 8:30ish NY time and which was about the time that the parrot fish just came back out of hiding. We stayed at the all-inclusive (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and yes, all beverages) Hotel and Resort Cozumel. They cater to divers and non-divers alike (hence the free booze). The nice thing about this hotel was the private beach and dock for the dive boats. Their preferred dive operator “Dive Paradise” has a very professionally-run location on site. Fresh-water rinse tanks, showers and private lockers dock-side are available to everybody using the operation, making the post-dive transition from boat to lunch table a breeze.
On our first dive of the week, we started off on our favorite dive boat, the Calypso. She can leisurely carry 16 divers, which made our group of 11 buddies feel less crowded.
When entering the water in Cozumel, I am always awe-stuck at the sheer transparency of the water. That day, the vis was a good 90 feet in crystal-clear turquoise waters. Even though we somewhat stuck together as a group throughout the dives, our dive masters broke us up into two groups (photographers and leisure divers). In we went and descended to a flat 50ft deep part in the reef to ensure that we had our bearings straight. When diving in Cozumel one thing becomes apparent right away. There is a current. However, the diving is designed around the current as your dive masters make you float past these incredible reef formations without ever having to kick your fins. We saw an incredible array of smaller sea life, like moray eels, parrot fish (yes they were back by now), peacock flounders, blue tangs, angelfish, cowfish, snappers, and triggerfish, to name but a few, but it wasn’t until we had completed a particularly beautiful swim-through that all of a sudden you heard a concert of metal banging against the tanks trying to get the attention of each member of our group. When I came upon the spot that everyone was pointing to, my gaze fell upon an almost surreal 500 lbs turtle that was calmly grazing off the reef. She was just hanging there, seemingly unaware of the presence of 12 divers, who respected her space, yet must have felt like a horde of paparazzi closing in on her.
That is exactly what is so great about Cozumel. The reef is part of an environmentally protected marine park that requires entrance fees (usually included in the dive fees and made evident to potential coast guard checks with ribbons around your wrist). The wildlife in Cozumel is so used to scuba divers and dive masters, who know not to touch and poke, let alone try to pick up, unlike in so many other destinations, that the presence of a small bunch of touristy divers doesn’t faze them. And since there is a turtle protection program on the island, you will see turtles galore.
Mesmerized by what we just experienced we floated on until the ascent. During the 15 ft. safety spot we all hung in silence, reminiscing about the immensity of what we had just witnessed, And this was just the first dive. Throughout the week, this first dive and the feelings it evoked were duplicated on each and every single dive.
Our week was phenomenal. In the afternoons we hung by the pool or went snorkeling off the hotel beach. The beaches in Cozumel, while more rugged than most in the Caribbean, are host to the most amazing littoral fauna and flora, just a few fin kicks into the swell. Also, the folks over at Abyss Scuba deliberately booked the trip during the week of Carnaval, which brings me to our evenings. In the evenings it was Carnaval time. Carnaval is to Cozumelians what Marti Gras is to the people of New Orleans. It’s an institution. Every night for four days lavishly decorated floats, filled with people wearing highly unique, amazingly weird and utterly beautiful costumes run up and down the main stretch of the town of Cozumel. It’s a big and friendly party with people dancing and inviting you to enjoy life with them. What a better way to enjoy your down time during a week of perfect dives.